Tag Archives: pub tip

When A Character Does Something You Dislike

13 Jan

I read a lot. I also read reviews, though I tend to read reviews after I have read a book myself. Why? Well, I used to rely on reviews to pick books, but now I tend to rely on a trusted few (and my own gut) to pick and choose. Even so, my interest in reviews never completely faded, so I tend to set time aside after I finish reading to skim book reviews.

One of the reasons I stopped reading book reviews was the obsession with tearing characters apart.

Don’t get me wrong. Characters are so, so important in fiction. However, I think many have forgotten that characters are supposed to reflect real-life people. They aren’t supposed to be perfect. They shouldn’t do things you agree with on every page. They will make mistakes, even mistakes that seem ridiculous to you.

Sometimes, your hero isn’t going to act very heroic.

Staying on the path of “when characters make mistakes that seem ridiculous to you”: As the reader, you might know more than the character. Or you might understand the tropes of your genre, so you expect certain things to happen (ex. a best friend’s betrayal, a love triangle admission, a mentor figure’s sudden death). However, to that character, they live in a world that doesn’t come with trope warnings (just like we don’t). So when their best friend betrays them and they’re shocked (and you’re not), I don’t think it’s fair to call that character stupid or naïve or etc. Even with dozens of clues, that character loves their best friend. They trust their best friend. As humans, we often lie to ourselves when the truth is looking us in the face. We make mistakes.

As much as characters are designed to entertain, they are also designed to be honest, ugly, thought provoking, loving, twisted, and more. In fact, if you design a character really well, they will be all of those things—sometimes in one scene.

As an example, I recently finished Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, and holy hell, I love it. I thought the voice was so honest, even though Dumplin has some seriously shallow thoughts. This was the main complaint I saw in reviews. Many called her hypocritical and hard to cheer on. And guess what? Of course she’s hypocritical. Of course she’s hard to cheer on sometimes. And that’s what made her believable. Dumplin’ is a teenage girl struggling with how the world judges her weight. Between that and the recent death of her beloved aunt, her contemptuous relationship with her mother, and her first (confusing) summer fling, I completely understood and sympathized with Dumplin’s emotional struggles. Does that mean I agreed with everything she did and said in every scene? Hell no! But I don’t have to agree with a character in every scene to love them in the end.

How many times has your sister annoyed you, bothered you, done something you thought was incredibly thoughtless? How about your parents? Your grandparents? Your best friends? But you still love them in the end. You give them second chances. You let go of the idea that everyone in your life must take your advice to heart. You understand everyone lives their own life their own way, and that sometimes you won’t agree with it, but that no one needs your approval. In fact, how many times have you done something that wasn’t perfect? How many times have you done something out of character? I know I’ve disappointed myself before. I still do. I’m human. I have moments of selfishness, of jealousy, of anger, of irrational depression. But does that make me worth tearing apart? I would hope not.

I expect characters to disappoint me at some point. I try to sympathize with flaws, but also understand that some flaws are going to be out of my realm. I cheer them on when they’re good and hope they redeem themselves when they’re bad. (And sometimes, I enjoy a good story where a character is never redeemed.) All I ask for is consistency—a sense that, no matter what the character does or believes, I understand them in that moment, even in the moments where they aren’t quite themselves. I need to believe they are real, and if I can believe that, I will more than likely enjoy the journey.

In the end, I want to enjoy the story—and sometimes, stories are told by those you might not understand. Maybe even by someone you would hate. But that doesn’t automatically mean the story is unlikeable.

Let’s be a little kinder to characters, especially character flaws.

We all have them.

~SAT

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2017’s Top Ten Articles

30 Dec

Every year, I like to look back and see what everyone was discussing. I try to collect the best discussions and revisit them, so here’s a list of this year’s most popular articles. Normally, I would’ve made this list based on a combination of unique views, comments, and shares, but I didn’t track that as well this year, so it’s only based on unique views. But I hope you enjoy them!

1. The YA Protagonist’s Age: You’re 17? Me Too! 

I’m not going to lie, I’m a bit surprised this was my most viewed 2017 article. But I’m really happy more writers and readers are discussing the lack of variety in the ages of our characters, especially in YA. Teens go through many issues at different times, and it time our stories reflect that.

2. Is Romance Necessary in YA?

Another article focusing on young adult fiction, I discussed whether or not a story HAD to include a romance. While the answer might seem obvious and simple, this conversation is actually a lot more complicated than I wish it was. Sex sells, after all. Yes, even in YA.

3. My Hate-Love Relationship with Historical Fiction

This year, I began writing my first historical novel, and the journey reminded me of my struggles as a viewer/reader/consumer when it comes to historical fiction. I want historical fiction to push boundaries, but that will take a brutally honest conversation about what we understand of history and why we interpret it the way we do.

4. When Writing Makes Reading Hard: a guest post by Susannah Ailene Martin

One of the only guest posts I hosted this year! (Honestly, y’all, if you want to guest post, I always consider thoughtful topics such as this one, so please feel free to message me.) Here’s one writer’s story about how writing can cause writers to struggle with reading.

5. First Person or Third Person? Present Tense or Past Tense? How Do You Decide? 

Choosing how to tell your novel is a personal decision, so how do we make those decisions? This is how I choose tenses and POV, along with some tips to help you decide.

I’m so ready for 2018!

6. Book Marketing Woes

We all have them: book marketing woes. This is a list of common woes, like “I don’t have time,” and actual solutions to help you overcome the issue.

7. I DNF a Book

As an avid reader, I often feel guilty when I’m halfway through a well-written book…and just not connecting. This year, one of my goals was to be easier on myself and allow myself to set down books I wasn’t enjoying, so that I could spend more time reading novels I love.

8. Authors Can Change Their Mind

Five years ago, I wrote an article that was strongly against sex in YA…and now? Well, I haven’t completely changed my mind, but I’ve lightened my stance. Basically, authors can change their mind. This is an article about how we grow overtime.

9. Not All Villains Think They’re Good

“All bad guys think they’re the good guy in their story” has become a popular writing tip, and while I love this writing tip, I push back a little. Find out why.

10. My Editing Process Starts in my Writing Process

Editing is the hardest part of writing, but you can make it easier on yourself by setting yourself up for success early on. Here’s how.

I hope you enjoyed 2017 and all the articles that came with it!

If there are any topics you want me to cover in 2018, feel free to let me know in the comments below.

I’m always here to help.

Onward to 2018!

~SAT

How Writing Conferences Can Surprise You

4 Nov

Today, I am attending a writing conference. (In case you’re wondering, I’m at the Middle of the Map Conference in Overland Park, Kansas.) While prepping last night, I began thinking about how much I love conferences—and about how many writers are on the fence about attending them.

I always tell writers to attend conferences if they can. Why? Because they might surprise you.

You see, I attended a different conference back in March with the wild hopes of snagging a literary agent.

Extra Tip: You don’t have to travel to attend conferences! There are now online conferences. But make sure to take a business card with you to in-person events.

When the conference was posted, I paid to attend. I also volunteered to help.

Here I was, thinking “volunteering” meant I’d hand out water bottles or get to chat in the early morning hours before arrivals…and then, they asked me to pick up agents and editors at the airport. FYI, I’m TERRIFIED of driving. Like, seriously, I’ve been in three major car wrecks. (None of which were my fault.) I had to go to therapy over it, but I’m much better now, and I wanted to stick to my word and help. So, I diligently practiced driving the route the day before. Later, one of the attending editors complimented me on my driving through the city in the rain. (This was a major accomplishment for me, who’d struggled for so many years with driving. I was really proud of myself for not backing down.) That was the first day.

To give you a better idea of my personal life and how this conference affected me, I work two jobs on a nightshift. I’m awake from 3 PM to 3 AM. On average, I get to bed about 7 AM. I had to attend this conference at 8 AM the very next day. I was exhausted and running on coffee-fueled adrenaline. Like many writers, I’m not wealthy, but I work my hardest, and I often work every day. Still, I paid $300 to attend and an additional $150 to pitch three different agents. It took me WEEKS to save up that money, and I don’t regret spending that money because something amazing happened.

After pitching three different agents, I walked away with three full manuscript requests and endless hope. Seven months later, one request resulted in a denial after we discussed a potential publisher who pushed it through acquisitions (a publisher that I LOVE, but who also didn’t work out in the end). One requested a R&R, and one request is still pending. Back in March, I naively thought I’d found the one, and though I’m still agent-less (and no longer actively querying), I still had a blast.

You see, while I waited for my turn to pitch, I began a conversation with another volunteer. She was a local writer, and we started talking about publishing/writing/reading/everything. She kept cheering me on, and I really appreciated how much she helped me keep my head up, especially since I was so bone-achingly exhausted. At one point, she mentioned her writer’s group, and I mentioned that I’d been struggling to find an in-person one. She invited me to attend hers later that month.

I couldn’t believe my luck. Here I was, an awkward/exhausted/out-of-money author, who’d been looking for a local writer’s group for MONTHS, only to be invited to one when I wasn’t actively searching. My hopes soared. I was so excited—and terrified.

What if they hated me? What if they hated my writing? What if I got a taste for an awesome group, only to be rejected when I asked if I could become a member? What if, what if, what if?

Later that month, I attended a meeting, not knowing what to expect, and now, I’m a regular part of the group. I look forward to our monthly meetings, and I’ve already grown a lot as a writer. Even better, I made friends.

I didn’t find an agent that day, but I did join an amazing writer’s group that changed my life for the better.

Publishing is an awkward, exciting, terrifying road, but more than that, it’s unpredictable.

So attend those conferences if you can. Those surprises can change everything.

~SAT

Burning Out on Your Fav Genre

28 Oct

Before every YA fantasy writer in the world loses their mind, I want to start out by saying that I, myself, am a YA fantasy writer and reader. Again, try not to lose your minds. This isn’t a personal attack. There’s some AMAZING YA SFF coming out right now. My most recent fav was Warcross by Marie Lu. But lately, I have been so burnt out on YA fantasy.

Being burnt out on YA SFF makes me sad, too.

Honestly, this is really difficult for me to admit. I LOVE YA fantasy. I’ve always read it, I mainly write it, and I’m constantly on the lookout for more of it. But recently, I have picked up book after book after book—and I’ve barely been able to connect. Worse? At first I thought it must’ve been the authors or the stories. Then, after a self-criticizing conversation with myself, I realized it was my fault.

You see, all I’ve been reading and writing is YA SFF—and that’s the problem. While writers are constantly told that they need to be reading what they are writing, we aren’t told as often to read outside of what we’re writing, and reading outside of your genre is just as important. Why? Because it teaches different approaches, different voices, different everything. And it helps you from burning out.

So what do you do when you burn out on your favorite genre?

 1. Try a different sub-genre

One genre has a million sub-categories, so try one you don’t usually pick up. For instance, fantasy is a HUGE umbrella term. Maybe you’re reading too much epic fantasy or urban fantasy. Try historical fantasy instead. Or reach into the fringes and grab that alien-vampire-cowboy mash-up you’ve been secretly eyeing.

2. Try a new age category

Don’t forget that there’s a fantasy section in the children’s, YA, and adult sections. Heck, grab a graphic novel. Each age category tends to have a unique approach, and it might help freshen your understanding of your genre. If you’re super unsure, see if any of your favorite writers write in different age categories. Ex. Victoria Schwab writes YA and adult fantasy.

3. Try a new genre completely

Yes, you’re supposed to write what you read, but seriously, reading other genres is just as important. Pick up a contemporary book. Browse some poetry. Reach into the great unknown. Honestly, this option is the one that helps me the most.

I’ve recently been reading more—*gasp*—contemporary, like Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde and Tiny Pretty Things by Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra. (Both highly recommended by the way). And, honestly, I wish I started reading them earlier this year. I wasn’t paying attention to how burnt out I was getting—how much reading and writing only fantasy was drowning my creativity and enjoyment—but these books quickly pulled me out of a slump once I started them. I’ve even been able to read fantasy again—and sure enough, after a little break, I started loving each story.

Basically, the point of this post is to remind writers that, yes, while you should always be reading what you write, you should also make time to read genres and age categories that you don’t write. Why? Because it expands your pallet. It resets your writing gears. It resets everything.

And it’s fun.

~SAT

#WW Writing Quicksand

7 Sep

Writing quicksand is a term I like to use to describe when writing is doing more damage than good. You know, the more you move, the faster you sink? It can happen in writing, too. Of course, writers should write all time. Whenever they can, really. But sometimes, it’s best to walk away for a little while, too, especially in regards to specific projects.

I found myself in writing quicksand the other day.

While working on a certain sequel, I hit a snag, but I didn’t back down. I pulled out my Sticky Notes. I displayed my plan. I switched it up. I rewrote Chapter One, and then, I edited Chapter Two and Three. From there, I redesigned a few characters…and then, I face-planted.

It was all wrong. Everything was worse. The “issues” I thought I was fixing were only multiplying in numbers.

I tore it all down, and I stubbornly tried again…and again…and again.

And every time, I only sank further into despair.

Writing quicksand.

But sand is so pretty, right? Wrong.

But sand is so pretty, right? Wrong.

It’s a dangerous trap, and when you’re stuck in it, you can start doubting everything you’ve ever written—in the past, in the current, and even in the future. You can start thinking every project is silly or useless or mundane. But then, you tell yourself it’s just writer’s block, and you try to power your way through it…only to hurt the project again.

It’s okay to walk away.

It’s okay to take a break for a little while and clear your head elsewhere.

Personally, when I realize I’m in writing quicksand, I put the laptop away, find an awesome read, and try to write something else completely unrelated to anything else I’ve worked on recently. I listen to a podcast, I research some history, I challenge myself with some ridiculously hard crosswords. (I still need a 10-letter word for Koussevitzky’s wardrobe.) But taking a break lets me enjoy writing without the deadlines or pressure or worries that come along with any writer’s career. And sure enough, within a day or two, I was back on dry land.

My project even continued forward.

One article I LOVE LOVE LOVE is When to Put the Baby (Your Book) to Bed by Stacey Lee on Publishing Crawl. (If you haven’t read Stacey Lee’s YA historical novel, Outrun the Moon, do so now. It’s amazing. Here’s my 5-star review.) But her article about when to walk away from a manuscript is a fantastic, honest read about how to know when to give up. (And why it’s okay.)

For now, I’m continuing forward with the project I sunk into the quicksand with, but there has been numerous books I had to walk away from, too, and that’s okay.

As long as you keep writing—and keep trying—all the adventures are worth it, even the ones with quicksand.

~SAT

 

 

#MondayBlogs My Average Day as an Author

1 Aug

The average day as an author varies from writer to writer, but I think there’s a huge misconception that we wake up, write all day, and fall asleep at the end of the night with thousands of words ready for print. In reality, most authors—yes, even The New York Times Best Sellers—work day jobs. Writing is our second full-time gig. And I’m not an exception.

3 PM

My Twisted Clock

I wake up at 3 PM. Why? I work a night shift, so I don’t get to bed until about 6 AM. I also work opposite days, meaning Sunday-Tuesday is my weekend. This can cause some awkwardness online, because some have assumed I’m ignoring them on the weekends when I am, in fact, working. But I do work from home, so I can sometimes check in on my author life during my lunch break and dinner break. This is also why you see my #MidnightBaking posts a lot. While it’s midnight for you, it’s dinner time for me.

4 PM – MIDNIGHT

My First Job

Honestly, I work from 4 PM to midnight as an editor, social media marketer, and anything else you might find on my Services page. I love it. I absolutely love reading authors’ works, talking to fellow writers, and helping those with social media, because social media is something I honestly enjoy, hence why I blog three days a week. As an author, I also use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, GoodreadsMailChimp, Wattpad, and YouTube on a regular basis. But all that is generally done in my next step.

My average day as an author always includes three things: coffee, cats, and books.

My average day as an author always includes three things: coffee, cats, and books.

MIDNIGHT – 4 AM

My Second Job

I’m an author. Finally. If I’m not completely exhausted from work—and I get all my housework done—this is where I write. But this is also the only time I have for marketing, so I often spend about a half of the time writing articles, sending out personal emails, researching books, and more. If I’m too tired, maybe I just read the current book on my nightstand. But I tend to write in this time period. If I can get one chapter finished and outline my next chapter for the next day, I am satisfied. It was a successful day.

4 AM – 6 AM

My Not-So-Chill Chill Time

I try to relax here, though I’m really bad at it. This is where I should be reading instead of writing (or even watching TV). Something—anything—to calm down my writer’s mind (or I won’t sleep at all), but more often than not, I’m curled up on the couch with my notebook jotting down more ideas as they come to me. I might even get back on the laptop. I find myself pulling 12-hour shifts (or longer) on a regular basis. This is probably why I’m addicted to coffee.

6 AM – 3 PM

My Very Restless Rest

Magnificent, majestic sleep.

Okay. So I have night terrors a lot. Not so majestic. But, hey, it helps inspire my writing!

P.S. It’s really HARD to sleep during the day. Lawnmowers. Sunlight. Truck engines. You name it, it has woken me up.

IN THE END

Writing for a living, more often than not, is not our living, but we do live for it. I love finding time between gigs to sneak in a few words or tweet back and forth with awesome readers, but I’m mainly working a regular gig like everyone else. And, hey! I love my day job. I honestly think my day job helps me be a better writer, and I get to read all day. It’s a dream come true, right?

If anyone is curious, I’m currently writing this article on my weekend. It’s Sunday, July 17, at 10 PM, so more than two weeks before you will be reading this. But it’s some of my only free time to blog, so I write ahead of time since I know work can get unpredictable and crazy. Even better? Now, I have time to go write.

Welcome to my writer’s life. 😉 

Original covered my average day as a writer in 2013.

~SAT

wattpadBlakeBlake’s origin story released on the FREE Bad Bloods Prequel on Wattpad. If you’ve ever wondered how a baby boy ended up in the Northern Flock, read his story here. I’m expecting to release Ami’s story from the Southern Flock on August 12. I’m also working on the sequel – July Thunder/Lightning – now!

I hope you’re reading the Bad Bloods series! Book 1 is only .99¢!

November Rain

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November Snow

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#1 Clicked Item was Bad Bloods: November Rain

#1 Clicked Item was Bad Bloods: November Rain

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